Hey everyone, Dani here.
Okay, so last month I had a post on here about a little writing experiment/challenge I am doing, involving a character named Gideon Holycross. Aside from that fact, most of the other details are being determined by reader vote. So far it has been decided that Gideon is an exorcist (which means I have some research to do on the topic), and he works with his theology professor father, and his step-brother Nicodemus. It was also decided that they would reside in Minneapolis, Minnesota (which again, will require a little research on my part).
The first chapter was posted a couple weeks ago on my Facebook page, and I’ll be sitting down to write chapter two very soon, but I figured I would share my completely unedited rough draft with all of you while I keep working on my Camp NaNoWriMo project for the month. At the end of the chapter I’ve posed a few questions. If you leave your suggestions in the comments then you may find that I use them in the future. It’s kind of like a choose your own adventure book and what happens to the characters depends on you lovely readers.
“It is not a path for the undisciplined. Generations have dedicated themselves to the calling and have spent years of study and trials to hone their talents. Nowadays the students simply lack the focus to truly grasp every concept and put theory into practice. They would rather spend their time glued to their phones, looking at their latest Tweets and likes and all of that nonsense…” A pause led to an angry clearing of the throat. “Gideon, are you even listening to me?”
The younger man looked up from his phone and glanced across the counter at his father before reaching up and dragging his long brown hair back behind his ears. “Yeah, yeah. Study, discipline, focus, drive…blah, blah. I have heard this speech of yours before, Pop.”
“And yet it still has not sunk in.” Doctor John Holycross, professor of theology at the University of Minnesota–more commonly known as the U–adjusted his spectacles and let out a deep sigh. Years of attempting to drill lessons into his son’s mind had proved nearly pointless and yet he refused to give up. He had to be certain that the boy would live up to the family name. It was a miracle that Gideon had even passed the requirements to join the organization considering his behavior.
“I’ve tried to tell you that it doesn’t work that way for me but you’re the one who refuses to pay attention. What matters most is my will and intent, not any use of symbology or holy water or memorization of ancient script.” Gideon slid off the stool behind the counter and picked up his jacket before slipping it on. “Besides, I was actually responding to an e-mail for the business. Most people don’t want to walk into the kooky occult shop to hire an exorcist.”
“It’s an antique store,” a deep voice called from the other side of the room, just moments before a tall yet lanky man with short blond hair walked over. “Seriously, don’t let Ma hear you call it an occult shop. You do not want to piss off a witch, again.”
Gideon held up his hands, palms out in surrender. “Right, wouldn’t want to upset Delilah again so soon. My fingers still spark every time I touch technology.” That incident had been almost a month earlier when Gideon accidentally let a lesser demon run around the store for a minute while he finished watching a funny video on YouTube. “It’s not like it did a lot of damage anyway.”
The blond shook his head and set a box of vials on the counter. “You say that ‘cause you did none of the clean up. It took a lot of scrubbin’ to get that ichor outta the carpet.” He looked over his clothes and brushed a couple cobwebs off the left shoulder of his blue flannel shirt. “So, do we have a job then?”
“We do. Jennifer Gipson over in Tangletown says her sister Chelsea has been acting odd. Normally she would have chalked it up to the change in weather or that time of the month, but apparently Chelsea’s cat has been hissing at her and refusing to enter the same room as her.” Gideon glanced over at his father. “I told her we would be there in a little bit, so can we save the rest of the discipline lecture for later?”
“I have a faculty meeting to attend anyway. Be sure to actually file a report this time. The Council tires of your excuses. If you can’t follow their rules then they will revoke your membership and it’s a lot harder to find work without their support.”
“I’ll make sure the report gets to them in a timely manner,” the blond said as he gathered up a messenger bag filled with a few vials and various other supplies. He slung the bag over his shoulder and pulled out his keys.
“Thank you, Nicodemus,” Doctor Holycross replied. “You’ve been quite helpful to the business.”
He only nodded in response and then stepped around the counter and headed towards the door. “Come on, Gid. We should be going.”
As they stepped out of the shop, Gideon looked at his business partner. “Have you ever noticed that he’s the only one to use your full name? Even your mom calls you Nic. I mean, in this day and age, who wants to be called Nicodemus?”
“You’re one to talk, Gideon. I just think he likes old-fashioned names. We don’t have a common name like John. Besides, you know Pop does it just to ruffle your feathers, right?”
Gideon groaned. “And he succeeds every time. I can’t believe you’re so unphased by it all. I grew up with it and it still bothers me, but you got used to it after a couple months.” His step-brother always seemed to be so level-headed and calm when faced with things that would cause Gideon to grimace, or lash out in some way. Maybe that was why Nic was so good with his abilities.
“I’ve also followed the approved manner of study because it works for me. When we can fully justify it all to the Council then we’ll plead our case and get them to accept your methods as valid. It will simply take time.”
“I might not have that much time,” Gideon answered, his voice soft, unsure.
For the past few months Gideon had been called to a number of hearings with the Council about his not quite by the book exorcisms, and he had been reprimanded and told to conform to their ways. It was similar to the way so many people saw in movies or on television but more complicated, and that method had never been all that effective when he tried. The old rituals took twice as long for him than for anyone else and he was usually lucky to limp away.
The Council just wasn’t willing to accept that he could simply have a stare down with an otherwordly entity and focus on the idea of expelling them and it would happen. There was a bit more to it than he really explained, but none of them were ready to accept what he could do, so they didn’t deserve to know every detail.
Nic unlocked his truck and set his bag down behind the driver’s seat. “Just get in, Gid. We have work to do and then we can figure out how to get the Council off your back. It’ll work out.”
Gideon wanted to grumble about Nic’s optimism, and to point out that of course it would all work out for him. If the Council decided to kick him to the curb then they would just partner Nicodemus with some exorcist who did abide by every single one of their archaic rules and rituals; they wouldn’t want to cross an arcane master anyway. That was the only benefit he had at the current moment, that Nic was supporting him. If that hadn’t been the case he would have been expelled months ago.
As Nic started the ignition and pulled out of the antique shop’s lot to head across town to the area known as Tangletown due to the winding streets, Gideon tried to calm his thoughts and prepare himself in case this was a true case of otherworldy possession. Most of the time they found that it was nothing serious; actually a number of cases were just phantasms or ghosts having a little fun. Even the lesser entities weren’t all that troublesome and were actually incredibly common. Those were what he typically dealt with and the Council didn’t mind his methods for that.
It was the true possessions that caused all the criticisms and chaos. That had happened a few months earlier, but the real issue had come around because the possessed was a prominent businesswoman and supporter of a large number of charities.
“They’re going to kick me out,” Gideon said a few minutes later, trying not to look at his step-brother.
“You don’t know that,” Nic replied, keeping focused on the traffic. “Sometimes they do make strides to modernize. Look, two hundred years ago they would not have allowed a witch or any other arcane practitioner within their ranks, but they realized how useful we can be. The Council is even loosening the ties to the Church as well, accepting a wider variety of candidates into training than ever before. I promise you, we will make them see sense. It is incredibly practical that you don’t need to recite the entire prayer, especially since most of them try to keep you from speaking. Just…relax. I’m not giving up on you and you shouldn’t either.”
How did a person argue against that logic? Nic seemed so sure that he would be able to gather enough evidence to support their methods and get the Council to see reason, but Gideon couldn’t help but feel that he was on his way to the gallows and all that was left was for them to pull the stool from under his feet and let him hang.
Even with the traffic it only took about twenty minutes to reach Jennifer Gipson’s home, which she apparently shared with her sister. Gideon had not really bothered to dig too deeply into the whys and whats and whens of their lives, at least not until he knew this really was a job.
“Are you ready to do this?” Nic asked after parking the truck in the driveway of the ranch style home. He shifted in his seat and reached for his bag, pulling it to the front by the strap. “I can do the preliminary work if you’re not up to it right now.”
Gideon shook his head. “I have to do this. Probably the best way to prove myself to the Council is to keep working and to continue expelling everything I can from this plane.”
Nic smirked and nodded. “Good. Then let’s go.”
The men got out of the truck and walked up to the first door, where Nic let Gideon take the lead. The exorcist was in charge and the wizard was nothing more than backup in case things went poorly. Gideon raised his left hand and knocked on the door three times.
* * *
Okay, so what I need to know now: is this a major possession or more of a false alarm? And more importantly what’s going to happen with Gideon: will the Council expel him, will they make him take a leave of absence for a little while, or will they accept his way of doing things? Let me know here in the comments.